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Newbury Review – Bravemansgame throws down the gauntlet to Ireland’s top novices

Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle day, dubbed “Super Saturday”, may not have had too much impact on the Cheltenham Festival betting but it did bolster the claims of Bravemansgame. The Paul Nicholls-trained novice chaser put up a bold display of jumping to successfully concede 16lbs to the useful Pats Fancy. It is now all systems go for the Festival Novices’ Chase where he could clash with the leading Irish hope Galopin Des Champs. We reflect on his victory and the other significant Cheltenham trials from Newbury’s card.

Bravemansgame 11-4 (NRNB) with Paddy Power after Newbury win

The ante-post betting market for the Festival Novices’ Chase has been dominated by Ireland’s Galopin Des Champs. He has been so impressive in his two appearances over fences that he has been considered one of the banker bets of the meeting. However, there remains some debate over whether he should run in the shorter Turner Novices’ Chase rather than step up to three miles for the Festival.

There are no such concerns for Paul Nicholls with Bravemansgame, a confirmed three-miler. At Newbury, he was sent straight to the front by Harry Cobden and put in some mighty leaps. His only semblance of a mistake came at the fourth last where he shortened up and briefly surrendered the advantage to Pats Fancy. He quickly re-asserted and ran on strongly to win by three and a half lengths. Should Willie Mullins decide to run Galopin Des Champs in the Turners, the 11-4 with a run on offer with Paddy Power could look good business.

The Game Spirit Chase has been a useful guide to the Queen Mother Champion Chase in the past but this year’s renewal only attracted four runners. The veteran Sceau Royal ran his usual game race but was comfortably held by the progressive Funambule Sivola. The winner earned a 20-1 quote for that race where he would be taking on Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi.

Royale Pagaille still on Gold Cup short-list if going is soft

The featured Betfair Hurdle produced a thrilling finish with Glory And Fortune just holding off the novice I Like To Move It by a short head. Last year’s winner Soaring Glory ran creditably to finish fifth under 11st 12lbs but the form seems more relevant to the County Hurdle than the Champion Hurdle. The winner will take on Honeysuckle and clearly was not flattered by his second to Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle last time.

The Denman Chase also fell short of providing much in the way of clues for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Favourite Clan Des Obeaux was using this as a prep race for Aintree but faded disappointingly, leaving Colin Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen to hold off Royale Pagaille by two and a quarter lengths. Connections of the winner are seemingly keen to stump up the £30,000 supplementary fee for the Gold Cup, although he does have the Ryanair Chase as an alternative engagement.

The going was good to soft, just as it was at Cheltenham last March when Royale Pagaille finished a remote sixth. He looked ill at ease in the early stages at Newbury on Saturday and it was to his credit that he plugged on right to the line. He is a much better horse on soft or heavy going and is worth keeping on the short-list if he gets his ground in March.